24th January 2023
Read (Matthew 5v27-37)
Message (Scott Woodburn)
The Gospel isn’t just for Sunday morning between the hours of 11am and 12noon, it is to cover our entire lives just as the tide envelops the once dry beach. As the Lord continued to teach on the mountain He stressed the practical implications of Christ-ward Gospel living.
Followers of Christ are to keep themselves from adultery - our marriage bonds are to be taken seriously and we are not to betray our husbands or wives by inviting others into our bedroom. So far, so straightforward. Most of us probably wouldn’t dream of being unfaithful to our spouse but as always the Lord shines His gaze at the blackness of our hearts. We may never have a physical relationship with another woman but how often do we allow our eyes to enjoy the curves of the lady next door? How often have we been excited by the thought of seeing that man at work who pays us far more attention than our husband ever does?
The Lord is clear “everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (v28). If we have ever allowed lust to fill our hearts then we have already committed adultery. What is to be done? Jesus says that if our eyes are filled with lust we should pluck them out (v29). If our hands cause us to sin then we should cut them off (v30). It is better to lose an eye or hand than to spend eternity in hell (v30).
It is alleged that a Christian by the name of Origen took such teaching so seriously that he followed Matthew 19v12 and made himself a eunuch by cutting off his own penis. Is this what Christ requires? No. Brothers and sisters we are not to mutilate our bodies in response to sin but we are to take sin exceptionally seriously. This is Christ’s point. Sin is horrendous, it is rotten, it is depraved and the wages of it is death and eternal hellfire. John Owen was right when he said “be killing sin or sin be killing you.” May we be increasingly aware of our sin and may we make a regular practice of repentance. The Lord is faithful both to forgive us and to sanctify us.
In similar manner we are not to take marriage lightly. Divorce has become incredibly common and incredibly easy in this generation but these verses show the Lord's high regard for marriage. Scripture teaches that divorce is permissible on the grounds of adultery (v32) and desertion (1 Corinthians 7) but by the grace of God our marriages will be for a lifetime. Brothers and sisters, I know that many of you are currently experiencing marriage tension and my counsel to you is not to be ashamed and seek immediate help. I think the fear of being judged by others pushes us to keep things to ourselves but marriage is so serious that I would urge you again to seek help. Does your husband have a habit of lifting his hand to you? Has your infidelity caused your wife to fall into depression? Has your love for one another grown cold? Is your husband’s drinking pushing you to the door? Seek help. Turn to the Lord primarily and additionally seek the help of others.
Let me say a word to the those of you who know the pain of divorce. I remember as a child telling my mum that no one in our family was divorced. She told me how stupid I was to believe that and then she recounted the great number in our family who had gone through a divorce. There are an incredible number of us who know the sting and shame of divorce. My dear brothers and sisters may you know that divorce is not the unforgivable sin. May you know that divorce will not keep you out of heaven. May you know that the Lord understands divorce and its tragedy more than you will ever know. He does? Yes. He once described Israel as His unfaithful wife who He sent away with a certificate of divorce (Jeremiah 3v8). If you feel the weight of divorce upon your shoulders then turn to the One who fully understands your pain.
Dear God, strengthen and keep our marriages we pray! Forgive us and assure us of that forgiveness! For Christ’s sake. Amen.
Finally, the Gospel impacts our words. Christ urges us to speak simply saying either “yes” or “no” (v37). Some have used these verses (v34, 36) to teach that Christ commands us to refuse to make all oaths or vows. What are oaths and vows? An oath is when we make promises to someone and call on God as a witness. A vow sees us making promises directly to God.
Are all oaths and vows banned by Jesus? No. His point in these verses is that the Christian should be marked by truthfulness. It is unnecessary for us to swear by God to prove our truthfulness - we should be truthful. Our yes should be yes and our no should be no. If you are called as a witness then be truthful. If you make a promise to God then keep it. If you promise your wife that you will be faithful then keep your eyes from that pretty girl who works at the garage.
The Gospel is not just for Sunday. It’s implications impact every inch of our lives - our marriages, our relationships, our words…not one inch is out of bounds for the Gospel. These verses therefore speak to each one of us. In response may we hear and heed them with maturity and may the Holy Spirit apply them to our lives. May He make us as holy as forgiven sinners can be.
Q58 What is required in the fourth commandment? The fourth commandment requireth the keeping holy to God such set times as he hath appointed in his Word; expressly one whole day in seven, to be a holy Sabbath to himself.